Ancient genetic material from caries bacterium obtained for the first time

Related Articles

Related Articles

Streptococcus mutans, a principle bacterium that causes dental caries, has increased the change in its genetic material over time, possibly coinciding with dietary changes that are linked with the expansion of humanity.

This idea is raised in a study conducted by researchers from the Universitat Autònma de Barcelona (UAB) and the Laboratoria Nacional de Genòmica para la Biodiversidad (National Laboratory of Genomics for Biodiversity) located in Mexico who, for the first time, have sequenced genetic material from this bacterium in populations from ancient times. An increase in genetic diversity has been produced, especially in the fragment of a gene that codifies a virulence factor known as dextranase.

The research, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, has investigated the bacterium in eleven individuals ranging from as far back as the Bronze Age up until the twentieth century. Samples have been taken from individuals in Europe and in both pre- and post-colonial America. The oldest case studied is that of an individual from 1200 BC, found in the burial cave in Montanisell (Lleida, Catalonia); the most recent, from the UAB collection, dates from the beginning of the twentieth century.

 

Image of ancient DNA laboratory work during sample collection: Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona
Image of ancient DNA laboratory work during sample collection: Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona

“The relationship is well known between the increase in frequency of caries and the dietary changes that occurred in the Neolithic, or with the European discovery of America, with the large-scale introduction of sugarcane to Europe, or the Industrial Revolution, but what was not known was whether this change happened jointly with changes at a genetic level is this bacterium”, explains Marc Simón, trainee researcher in the UAB Biodiversity doctorate and the article’s principal author.

“We saw that, in the most recent populations, genetic diversity was greater; to us, this indicates a population-based expansion by the bacterium that may have occurred in parallel with the demographic expansion of humans. We think that this increase took place in the Neolithic. Currently, the oldest individual we have analysed is from the Bronze Age, but we might actually be witnessing the continuation of this process. In the future, we hope to be able to work with even older samples in order to corroborate our hypothesis”.

The study creates the possibility of providing evidence for the historical relationship between caries and humans as well as ascertaining the ways in which distinct historical moments may have affected this. Additionally, it makes it possible to reconstruct the dietary habits of the ancient population or of the population movements that took place.

For Assumpicò malgosa, a researcher in Biological Anthropology at the UAB and coordinator of this research, “it is important to know how the gene varied in the past in order to predict models of evolution for caries virulence, to know whether these changes were a response brought about in order to adapt better to changing environments or even to other parts of the human body, such as the gastrointestinal tract, or if they changed to become resistant when conditions of hygiene improved, etc. Knowing how they reacted in the past in different situations can provide us with an idea of how they will do so in the future in similar circumstances”.

The UAB Physical Anthropology laboratory carried out the study, with some samples being replicated in the Laboratorio Nacional para la Bioversidad in Mexico. The project was financed by the Spanish Ministry of Education and Science, the Catalan Government (Generalitat de Catalunya) and the Mexican National Council for Science and Technology (CONACYT).

 

Contributing Source: Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

Header Image Source: WikiPedia

 

Download the HeritageDaily mobile application on iOS and Android

More on this topic

LATEST NEWS

The Modhera Sun Temple

The Sun Temple is an ancient Hindu temple complex located on a latitude of 23.6° (near Tropic of Cancer) on the banks of the Pushpavati river at Modhera in Gujarat, India.

Scientists Hunt For Lost WW2 Bunkers Designed to Hold Off Invasion

New research published by scientists from Keele, Staffordshire and London South Bank Universities, has unveiled extraordinary new insights into a forgotten band of secret fighters created to slow down potential invaders during World War Two.

Sea Ice Triggered the Little Ice Age

A new study finds a trigger for the Little Ice Age that cooled Europe from the 1300s through mid-1800s, and supports surprising model results suggesting that under the right conditions sudden climate changes can occur spontaneously, without external forcing.

The Two Fanjingshan Temples

Fanjingshan Temple is actually two temples, located on the “Red Clouds Golden Summit or Golden Peak” on Fanjingshan Mountain (also known as Mount Fanjing), the highest point of the Wuling Mountains in southwestern China.

Venus’ Ancient Layered, Folded Rocks Point to Volcanic Origin

An international team of researchers has found that some of the oldest terrain on Venus, known as tesserae, have layering that seems consistent with volcanic activity. The finding could provide insights into the enigmatic planet's geological history.

Undersea Earthquakes Shake up Climate Science

Despite climate change being most obvious to people as unseasonably warm winter days or melting glaciers, as much as 95 percent of the extra heat trapped on Earth by greenhouse gases is held in the world's oceans.

Raids and Bloody Rituals Among Ancient Steppe Nomads

Ancient historiographers described steppe nomads as violent people dedicated to warfare and plundering.

Ancient Human Footprints in Saudi Arabia Give Glimpse of Arabian Ecology 120000 Years Ago

Situated between Africa and Eurasia, the Arabian Peninsula is an important yet understudied region for understanding human evolution across the continents.

Popular stories

The Secret Hellfire Club and the Hellfire Caves

The Hellfire Club was an exclusive membership-based organisation for high-society rakes, that was first founded in London in 1718, by Philip, Duke of Wharton, and several of society's elites.

Port Royal – The Sodom of the New World

Port Royal, originally named Cagway was an English harbour town and base of operations for buccaneers and privateers (pirates) until the great earthquake of 1692.

Matthew Hopkins – The Real Witch-Hunter

Matthew Hopkins was an infamous witch-hunter during the 17th century, who published “The Discovery of Witches” in 1647, and whose witch-hunting methods were applied during the notorious Salem Witch Trials in colonial Massachusetts.

Did Corn Fuel Cahokia’s Rise?

A new study suggests that corn was the staple subsistence crop that allowed the pre-Columbian city of Cahokia to rise to prominence and flourish for nearly 300 years.